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<nettime> It or at
Pit Schultz on Mon, 28 Apr 2003 13:22:38 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> It or at

{ wireless hasn't to be digital. the long waves of radio history
still provide some interesting combinations. just stream into the
other direction and get arround the bandwidth issue. streaming
media theory went with the venture capitalists. practicioners know
that their techniques do not scale well, so they wait for internet 2.
their dreams were made for very small audiences but not for the
imaginary masses; which are the problem of the current music
industry. masses do not scale well too. how to build a small mass?
the multitude replaced the masses, fuzzy and dizzy and
fuehrer-less per definition the internet was its medium.
streaming was about waiting for all other media, radio, tv, internet,
to vanish into something else. the dream of the 90ies.
a dream space without objects or documents but just flows and
their crossings.  maybe the critical mass of free content hasn't been
reached at all yet to reach that state of consciousness. today
globalisation becomes like the sneakers of the last season. there
is anti-anti-globalisation and  WTO free marketeers fighting US
protectionism. the worldmap is a sad and outdated emblem of the
time before 9-11. the emblem of now, is maybe one against the dominance
of the image which replaces thought, the embedded ego shooter,
the streaming war-cam, or the facial peace sign of teenage activists.
it's anti-semiotic at first, stupid beyond signification, noisy
AND redundant. what is streaming good for? streaming is best for
huge archives of rather unpopular content, as harddrive space is not more
expansive than bandwidth. live or archive? who cares as long it's there.
streaming media is only HUGE if bandwidth  is for free and dump dark fibre
becomes lightened up everywhere in a public infobahn project. the broadband
revolution never happened, this scenario hasn't been told to you before.
it splits up into the murdochs and aols of this world and spreads through
different types of distribution down to the printed cereal box on the table.
enron and worldcom ate up the pensions of parts of the population, but
thanks to the mediawar on foxnews, the internet (and network centric
warmongering) will never win. it's a cultural war anyhow. redundancy vs. noise.
distraction against consciousness. mediocracy contra resistance.
new model: if the internet is fragmented and slow enough (compared to
something else) it might become irrelevant;  but redundancy is not a crime
only known to the mainstream. listen to chomsky's last interview.
omni-presence, appearing everywhere, the last stage to implosion in a
grand collective disapperence...
better maybe: the long waves mixing with the short ones.
there are moments in life which are not penetrated by IP traffic and
new email on a laptop, a rining mobile or a dv-cam documenting everything.
this is where the cheap devices, easy ambient access, mobility with days
of battery life, and the lack of visual domination makes maybe radio the best
end device of all for all. let's just consider the chance, that radio is not
coming back, but that it was there  already, wispering on, rotating in a loop
of redundancy and corporate faciscm. time to clear the channel with the
digitization of the ether, this is the dream of wifi.
the still very much hyped ethernet without cables
becomes ready to eat itself (like the CD did in the mp3 revolution,
only the other way arround) while the old medium comes into a second
life (maybe like vinyl). we do like wireless, because it's about comfort,
but not as a low budget sequel of net-utopia 1995. wifi produces
conference talks but no culture in itself, its an add-on but not the
basis for something. there is hardly any kind of music style going back
to the use of wifi-meshworks yet. only in areas with extremly high real
estate prices, wifi leads to interesting new property models of sharing
scarce ressources (picopeering). and, it's no art to get internet access in 
in western europe. combining old and new media can be another investment
into the culture of representation and tacky interface studies, but not
any more. connecting the open-everything movement with the locality of radio
space might lead to something socially more meaninful. and keep your
head down when  the buzzwords are coming down on you.. roberto verzola
spoke about the  copyright class and free content when we  on nettime were
on a goofy leftist vs.  wired thread. this is no sexy  blathering about
something we already knew anyhow from the media conference next door,
this is just a forgotten lesson from the class of 1998. instead of shutting
community radio down,  it needs to be broadened up. instead of dreaming
about DAB and ultrawideband, get a low power fm and connect it to the net.
and break the law if needed, not only on the net. (pirate utopia part II) /p}


IT or AT?
by Roberto Verzola

This is a comparison of two technologies for information exchange -- the 
Internet and low-power community radio. It is based on the following
considerations: user one-time entry cost; recurring user costs; network server
one-time entry costs; recurring network server costs; equipment life; 
impact on
jobs; local culture; production of equipment; source of information; potential
reach; best use; interactivity; advertising; information goods marketing;
demands; health issues; accessibility; gate keepers; default paradigms; new
technologies; government attitude; development agencies attitude; NGO 
benefits to rich countries; and
proposed alternate approaches. The costs are based on Philippine prices, which
should more or less reflect typical developing country figures.

In a way, the two contrasting approaches may be described by the common 
that describe them: information technology (the Internet) or appropriate
technology (low-power radio)?

User one-time entry cost

The Internet: Zero for telecenter users. However, telecenter users will find
themselves at a huge disadvantage vis--vis other Internet users due to the
limitations of computing without one?s own home or office PC. For mainstream
Internet involvement, one would need at the minimum a subscription to an ISP,
with its corresponding fees, as well as the cost of a computer, modem and
telephone line. With used equipment, one can probably get set up with around

Low-power radio: Zero for 80-90% of the population who already have a radio 
For the small minority of the poor don?t have one yet, the typical cost of a
small AM/FM set is US$10-20 which is probably affordable to all but the 
of the poor.

Recurring user costs

The Internet: Whether using a telecenter or one?s own Internet 
subscription, the
minimum recurring user cost will probably range at around one US dollar for
every one to three hours. The numbers are still going down, though gradually.
Currently, Philippine prices probably reflect a fight for market share more 
for return on investment. A recurring cost that is often taken for granted is
the cost of maintenance and repair, which can reach, annually, 5-10% of the
equipment cost. In many areas, lack of spare parts can delay repair for months
while unskilled or dishonest repairmen can make the problem worse. At 
times, the
cost of repair can approach the cost of new equipment. Some laptops are so
difficult to repair that they are in effect throw-away equipment, discarded 
they breakdown.

Low-power radio: A radio owner's recurring cost, assuming a rural setting
unreached by electricity grid, is simply the cost of a set of batteries 
every few months. The cost is
negligible where grid electricity is available. This recurring cost is truly
affordable to most of the rural poor, who, today, spend this amount for their
transistor radio.

Network server one-time entry costs

The Internet: To set up a network server involves much higher costs than a
simple user. A small server on the Internet would initially cost around
US$1,000-3,000 for the CPU, modem, phone
line and the initial ISP subscription.

Low-power radio: A basic FM micro-power radio station would cost around
US$2,000-5,000. One can probably say that a micro-power station would cost 
as much as a high-end Internet server. An organization or institution which 
afford computers should be able to afford a micro-power radio station. The big
question mark is the licensing cost, a politically-imposed cost which does not
exist for Internet servers.

Recurring network costs

The Internet: Recurring network server costs would include training costs, 
salaries, and connectivity costs (i.e., the cost of dial up and dedicated
lines). Training and staff costs tend to be high, because of the unusually 
changes in the technology and the high turnover of technical people.
Connectivity may cost around $100-1000/mo. Since servers normally have to run
twenty-four hours a day, an annual maintenance cost of 5-10% of the equipment
cost must definitely be figured in.

Low-power radio: Because the technology is mature and standard, training and
staff costs tend to be lower. There are minimal costs for electricity and
supplies, and no connectivity costs, although a radio station might want an
Internet connection for access to more information.

Equipment life

The Internet: The life of Internet equipment is relatively short due to
unusually rapid changes not only in the technology but in the standards
themselves. This, in effect, results in very high depreciation costs.

Low-power radio: Equipment life tends to be relatively long due to mature 
technology and stable standards. The useful life of analog audio and radio
equipment can easily reach three
to five times that of Internet equipment.
Cost: conclusion

The Internet: Considering the generally high cost for user and network server
equipment, especially if maintenance and replacement costs are factored in, 
Internet will probably remain mostly a tool for the elite (i.e., high- and 
medium-income sectors) for quite sometime.

Low-power radio: This technology is definitely affordable to low-income 
(those earning US$5/day or lower).

Impact on jobs

The Internet: Computers enforce the automation paradigm, which displaces labor
with machines. New ICT-based jobs may be created, which may tend to pay higher
especially in foreign firms, encouraging a shift to jobs in the ICT sector.
However, these jobs are also subject to the automation paradigm and thus may
also be replaced later by machines. Furthermore, those who lose their jobs to
machines may be the older and unskilled workers, who are often poor
candidates for retraining.

Low-power radio: Radio does not have the built-in automation paradigm of the
computer, and thus poses little threat against existing jobs.

Local culture

The Internet: The Internet requires read/write literacy. Its full benefit is
available only to those who are familiar with English. Knowledge of English is
essential when one goes into programming the technology.

Low-power radio: Community radio stations will naturally adopt the local
language, given their local reach. Radio is also very compatible with 
cultures that rely on oral traditions.

Production of equipment

The Internet: Internet hardware, software and connectivity are mostly 
Very few companies are able to make the integrated circuits that comprise the
basic parts of most Internet

Low-power radio: Hardware for low-power radio stations are simpler and 
easier to
produce locally. Local, small-scale assembly of equipment is entirely 
Source of information

The Internet: Bulk of the material on the Internet is foreign material. Due to
the sheer volume of information available, there is always something 
to be found. But it is less useful for
getting specific local information.

Low-power radio: Due to its limited reach, low-power radio stations have 
choice but to deal mostly with local material.

Potential reach

The Internet: The Internet?s global reach may cover up to several hundred
million Internet users worldwide. But this potential reach is limited by the
connection speed, by Internet gatekeepers, and by the dominant Internet 
of English.

Low-power radio: FM micro-power stations can usually be received by radio sets
within the line of sight. This can be very localized, in the case of valleys
surrounded by hills or mountains.
The area of coverage can be wider there the topography is more level, or where
the radio station is on a hill overlooking a wider area.

Best use

The Internet: The best Internet applications are electronic mail, mailing 
information searching, and international or national communications. Its 
plus is flexibility, which makes it possible to mimic various media, paving 
way for media convergence on a single global infrastructure.

Low-power radio: Community radios are most suited to local information
dissemination, for building local public opinion, and for strengthening local
community. In remote areas where it is
the only contact of isolated families to the outside world, a community radio
that can receive phone calls from the outside (say, from overseas contract
workers) has also been used to announce urgent messages to 


The Internet: Facilities for feedback, exchange and dialog are built in.
However, it can also be used as a one-way medium if little importance is
attached to two-way interaction. Interset response times are reckoned in
milliseconds to minutes.

Low-power radio: A radio transmitting station is a one-way medium. But radio
programs can and do combine technologies (such as incoming phone lines, 
text messaging, discussion panels, roving reporters with two-way radios, etc.)
to provide feedback, exchange and dialog. Response times are reckoned in 
to days (for mailed-in feedback).


The Internet: Like television, the Internet is a very good medium for
advertising. Besides full-color, full-motion video, the promise of immediate
response through credit card purchases makes the Internet a much more powerful
advertising medium than even television.

Low-power radio: Radio is only a passable medium for advertising, because it
does not have the multi-sensory attractions that television and the 
Internet can

Information goods marketing

The Internet: The Internet is the perfect medium for marketing information
goods, which can be directly downloaded from the Internet and immediately paid
for online with a credit card.

Low-power radio: Radio is a poor medium for marketing information goods, 
it is not possible to selectively download information material from the 
nor can the technology be used as a payment mechanism.

Sensory demands

The Internet: Multi-media gives audio-visual and even full motion capability.
For high end systems, 3-D is now possible; the future promises virtual 
The Internet requires concentration and full attention of the user. The full
sensory feed that the Internet provides may encourage passive reception and
discourage highly symbolic thought and the use of one?s imagination. The
Internet is inaccessible to the deaf or the blind, although some special but
expensive equipment may be able to help the blind.

Low-power radio: Being an audio-only medium may be a limitation. But it can 
be an advantage. Radio may be enjoyed while at work. The listener may 
engage in
other activities while listening. Because it has no visual input, radio can in
fact encourage the use of one's imagination. The technology is accessible 
to the
blind, though not to the deaf.

Health issues

The Internet: Health concerns include radiation effects from high-frequency,
very-high frequency, and near-microwave emissions; the impact of video 
on eyesight; and Internet addiction. A computer user stares at a radiation
source (the screen) barely a foot
or two away, and for many hours on stretch. As more and more, including high
school and even elementary students, do this on a daily basis, we can expect
eyesight problems to become widespread.

Low-power radio: Radiation from broadcast transmitters is also a source of
concern, but the risks are less for micro-power stations.


The Internet: The communication channels and servers of cyberspace are mostly
private space. Many of those initially set up by governments are increasingly
being privatised. This means that
any claim of a right to access to the medium can be negated by 
counterclaims of
the private owners of the medium.

Low-power radio: The radio spectrum is a public space. Thus, the public has an
inherent right to access the medium. And an inherent right to use it. Today,
however, this right is restricted by
government through exclusionary licensing requirements. Such requirements are
often justified with two arguments: 1) the radio spectrum is limited, so 
its use
must be regulated; and 2) national security requires strict regulation of 
transmitter lest they be used for anti-government activity. Both are false
arguments. Even in the largest towns, small cities and most of the larger
cities, only a few AM or FM stations are active; many frequency slots are 
and therefore available. In many towns, not even a single station is 
Like radio, the Internet can also be used for anti- government activity. Yet,
most governments impose no licensing requirements on Internet servers. They 
always invoke national security anyway, should a server start to engage in 
propaganda. There is no reason why the same liberal policy cannot be 
adopted for
community radio stations.

Gate keepers

The Internet: The Internet is not as democratic as it is often hyped to be.
Internet gate keepers exercise control over the medium, though such control 
often be invisible and unintrusive but it can be as absolute as absolute 
can be.
Gate keepers include standards-setting bodies, IP address authorities, domain
name owners, communication channel and server owners, search engines, portals,
mailbox providers, mailing list owners and moderators, and Internet service
providers. Increasingly, these gate keepers are private entities and firms who
are not accountable to the public for their policies and actions.

Low-power radio: Radio has its own gate keepers, such as radio station owners,
managers and announcers. But the biggest gate keeper of all is the government,
through highly restrictive licensing requirements.

New technologies

The Internet: The next major advance will probably be virtual reality ? 3-D,
tactile suits and other reality-enhancing developments. This development will
probably worsen the negative
elements we have identified about the Internet.

Low-power radio: A technology called spread spectrum, which allows many 
to share a segment of the radio spectrum with minimal interference. This
technology is the answer to the so- called scarcity of the radio spectrum.

Default paradigms

The Internet: The Internet is not a neutral technology. It contains built-in
values and default paradigms. These include: global competition, automation 
the replacement of workers with
machines, subsidy for global players, US/Europe-centric, Anglo-saxon culture,
and high-tech advocacy.

Low-power radio: The built-in values of community radio include local
orientation, oral tradition, community-centeredness, local culture, and
intermediate technology advocacy.

Government attitude

The Internet: Governments tend to embrace the technology, with some 
No duties are imposed; the legal requirements are minimal; no license is 
required to set up an Internet server. Following the lead of US and Europe,
governments often adopt the policy of investing heavily in the new technology.

Low-power radio: Governments are almost one in restricting, taxing, heavily
regulating, controlling and monitoring the technology. A license is invariably
required to operate a station. The legal requirements are difficult and often

Development agencies attitude

The Internet: Funding agencies actively encourage, support, and fund ICT
projects. In fact, they may even pressure NGOs to adopt ICTs (as when they
insist on emailed attachments for reports). They are working hard to extend 
reach of the Internet and to protect it from authoritarianism.

Low-power radio: With very few exceptions, radio broadcast projects see to get
low priority. There is mostly silence on radio spectrum democracy, radio 
rights, and universal access
to broadcast equipment.

NGO attitude

The Internet: NGOs are eager to explore the technology. Many have embraced it
and have invested heavily in equipment. An increasing number are getting their
own domain name and setting up their own websites. While the advantages are 
for NGOs heavily involved in international work, they are not so obvious for
local NGOs.

Low-power radio: There are very few NGO advocates of community radio. They are
usually discouraged by the very restrictive government licensing requirements
and the little support
they could get from development agencies.

Benefits to rich countries

The Internet: As the Internet expands, rich countries will enjoy a huge
expansion of their markets for hardware, software connectivity, consultancy 
other ICT services. By using the Internet to tap cheap IT labor and 
expertise in
poor countries, the rich countries will be able to minimize immigration and
strengthen their protectionist policies in restricting the movement of labor.
rapid spread of credit cards and e-commerce will also expand the markets for
their other non-IT goods. Because they are already information economies, rich
countries are masters of ICT and are in the best position to take advantage of
the new technologies.

Low-power radio: The AM/FM sets needed by the remaining 10-20% of poor without
one, to ensure 100% coverage, can be served by local production. The same 
can be
done with with
micro- power broadcast stations. By enhancing community interaction, low-power
stations can encourage the development of the local economy, and reduce
outmigration. By encouraging local commerce, local stations are less 
helpful in
expanding the markets of rich countries. Community radio merges better with 
needs of agricultural and industrializing economies.

Proposed alternate approaches

The Internet: The government must reduce the overemphasis on Internet
infrastructure at the expense of other equally important infrastructure. No
special tax breaks or duty exemptions should be granted to Internet
infrastructure. The government should mandate the use of free/open software in
the public sector. Compulsory licensing should be applied on important 
and copyrighted material. Public access stations should be encouraged, and
community/public control and ownership over Internet infrastructure should be
maintained. Later, the use of the
Internet in community radio stations should be explored. Check the 
viability of
a stand-alone VCD player cum CDROM browser (<$40) for low-cost information

Low-power radio: The government should give greater priority to local 
like community radio. The restrictive legal requirements for setting up 
radio stations should be removed. Such stations should instead enjoy tax 
and duty exemptions. The local production of AM/FM sets and micro-power
broadcast stations should be encouraged. Useful program materials like the
Discovery series should be subject to compulsory licensing in
a community television pilot project. A wider segment of the broadcast radio
spectrum should be allotted for micro-power stations. Ceilings should be
established on transmitting power, and
these should be gradually reduced over the years, to allow more stations to go
on the air. The expansion of community radio to include some offline 
for email and lists as well as other intermediate technologies for information
networking should also be explored.


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